Bones - Season 8, Episode 9 (Review)

The Ghost in the Machine
Episode Summary
The Jeffersonian team and the FBI find a largely skeletonized body in a greenhouse.  Based on the shape and placement of the eye orbits, Brennan thinks the victim was male.  Based on the partial fusion of the distal radius and acromion of the shoulder, she estimates him at 13 to 14 years old at death.

*smoke fade!*

Close your mouth, Tempe.
At the Jeffersonian, the remains are xrayed, and a bunch of old fractures are found to the wrists, elbows, patellae, and coccyx.  Although his long bones suggest he was small, his muscle markers show that he was well-built and athletic.  Angela finds that he had symmetrical features and good teeth, although he ground them at night.  Hodgins estimates, based on the wasp's nest found in the skull, that time of death was around 2 years ago in the autumn.  Angela reconstructs the face and finds out it's Colin Gibson.

*another smoke fade!*

Further analysis of the skeleton reveals perimortem abrasions to both patellae and tibiae, damage to the metacarpals, scaphoid, and lunate, a Colles fracture to the left radius along with a hairline fracture to the left clavicle, a shallow vertical gash to the sternum, and a fracture of C2, which would have snapped his neck.  The skull also has some areas of discoloration that puzzle Brennan.  A paint chip found with Colin's body helps Booth narrow the car down to a 1987 Chevy El Camino, which Colin's father just happened to own.  

*seriously, is a Dementor coming to get me?*

The wasps also tell Hodgins that the body was moved, as they live above ground and not below.  He traces the paper fiber in the wasp nest to Betula uber, the round leaf birch, and helps Booth and Brennan find a location that the body could have been dumped initially.  Brennan finds three small holes in the pump house that match up with the discolored areas of Colin's skull.

*I start making the Wayne's World bee-dee-dee-boop sound*

Angela helps reconstruct the events leading up to Colin's death.  They try some scenarios in which Colin is getting hit by the car, but then Brennan realizes Colin was surfing on top of the hood.  The driver hit a bump, stopped, and Colin fell off and broke his neck.  Booth brings in a bunch of kids for questioning - Miranda, whom Colin had a crush on, her boyfriend Sean, and some kid named Carl we haven't seen yet.  Sean admits he was driving and admits to having moved the body because Colin was haunting him.  Booth notes that the three(?) boys confessed and Miranda had nothing to do with it.

*oh yay, last one!*

With the help of psychic Cyndi Lauper, the mix tape Colin gave to Miranda on the day he died is played, and she realizes he loved her.  His spirit is spirited away.  Everyone cries.

  • Forensic
    • Although it's sometimes possible to estimate sex from subadult remains, it's very poor form to do so.  Especially in the field rather than in a laboratory setting.  And since Colin was small for his age, it likely meant he hadn't started going through puberty, the event that serves to most strongly differentiate male from female skeletons.  Personally, I'll go as young as 16 if the morphology is clear.  I wouldn't estimate sex on a 14-year-old.
    • The prop people need to get a fake adolescent skeleton.  In one closeup, when the wrist was projected on a screen, there was a line of partial fusion of the distal radial epiphysis.  But the rest of the skeleton (the femoral heads, the iliac crest, the xiphoid process, all the other things that wouldn't be close to fused at 14) was, of course, fused.  The skull (which we saw reflected in a mirror at the pump house and at the end) was definitely adult, strongly male, and looked nothing like the skull of a 14-year-old.  Seriously.  Is it too much to ask for them to have fake skeletons of a variety of ages, sexes, and ancestries?  I mean, we have those in our teaching lab, even though we don't have a crapload of money because we're not a wildly popular TV show.
    • Unless Brennan's home is a secure forensic facility, I don't think she should be taking human remains home with her.  You know, chain of custody and all that boring police stuff essential for catching a murderer.  At least when the brought it to the pump house, there was a big EVIDENCE tag on the bag/box the skull was in.
  • Plot
    • There's an El Camino in the middle of the lab?  Really?
    • Who were the three boys that were supposed to have been hanging out with Colin?  We met Sean at the beginning, then the Carl kid showed up at FBI questioning out of the blue.  Not sure who the third was.
    • The conceit of this show was awful.  Just awful.  Only crazy people (and TV forensic professionals) talk to skulls.  Not seeing the bones made this pretty boring and reliant on exposition.  Also hard to interview potential suspects when you have to think of a semi-plausible reason to have a skull at the FBI for questioning.
  • Dialogue
    • Brennan: "I'm uncomfortable defining sex with just the skull."  You literally do it ALL THE TIME on this show!  And this is the one time you should be uncomfortable, yet you do it anyway.
    • Brennan pronounces "integral" like "in-TEE-gral."  (I don't care if Merriam-Webster says it's a variant pronunciation.  No one pronounces it like that.)
    • I finally figured out what it takes for Brennan and Booth to call one another by their given names: tears.

Forensic Mystery - D.  We didn't really learn that much about the forensic mystery, since information about Colin's injuries was touched on only briefly at the beginning and the end.

Forensic Solution - C-.  Well, they did ID the remains, based on... well, Angela's facial reconstruction got a hit in a missing person's database?  I'm assuming, since it was never spelled out.  But the forensics in tonight's episode were pretty terrible.

Drama - F.  I simply do not need to see close-ups of everyone's faces as they talk to a dead person.  Nor do I need to see Brennan crying two or three times in an episode.  Yes, we get it, the writers want to rehabilitate her emotional state.  Can we dial it back a notch now?  The ridiculous conceit of the show ("through the victim's eyes") meant major limitations in the plot, and the incessant smoke-fades made me want to hurl my remote at the TV.


I hated (HATED!) this episode too. A shame, because until now, have really been enjoying this season, and the directions they've been taking Brennan in particular as she and Booth work out their different approaches to life -- usually intelligently done. But not this time. I did like the final scene where Booth and Brennan jam to "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner -- a nod to a bonding moment in Season 1.
Madhatter360 said…
As soon as Brennan said she was uncomfortable determining sex from the skull I was thinking that you'd call her out for that.

I think I would have liked this episode better if it wasn't so close to the 9/11 episode. I get that they want to show a more emotional Brennan but it felt like too much all at once.
Anonymous said…
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Unknown said…
Not one of the strongest episodes or seasons I would say. But let's face it, most TV shows that go this many seasons have their dips (see: House M.D.). But, as you point out, this episode was never really thought out well. Its like they wrote up the scenes, and didn't think to figure out how to edit it all together until the very end, when one guy was probably like: Fuck it, we'll go with that shitty generic free smoke effect on Final Cut. Very disappointing, since even when the story lines drag, the direction and editing is usually quite good.
Anonymous said…
The third boy was sitting to Sean's right when they were being interrogated. You can see him briefly when Booth and Sweets enter the room, and about 10 min into the episode Angela's reconstruction is up on the screen (Booth asks if it is the reconstruction of the boy)and when Hodgins estimates that he died two years ago she said she was going to run the reconstruction through the missing person's database from around the time of death, and while they are talking she gets a match with Colin Gibson's missing person's report.
Rebecka said…
Sometimes I half yell at the tv, definitely did so for this ep. First when Brennan said she's uncomfortable determining sex like that. Like you said, she doe sit all the time! And all kinds of other things. And then when we got to properly see the skull. Even I, who've only studied human osteology for one semester, could see that it was an adult male, looking quite darn manly.

Episodes like these, through the eyes of the victim and all that jazz, can be done well. I seem to recall liking an ER ep like it. But this was just weird. They've never ever moved a skull around that much.
Sarah said…
Yeah, I agree. This episode was annoying and completely unbelievable. It really annoys me that the writers have to push their own beliefs into the plot-line too, it's so Hollywood, and the show is now so much more cheesy. I'm getting really tired of them showing Brennan's 'soft side' too at this point. We get it. She's changed. Can we move on?

I thought it worked in the Patriot in Purgatory but now I just want to go back to the murders. Can we have more Brennan vs. crime scene cleanup guys? That was the best episode so far this season.
Anonymous said…
Do you know if Katy Reichs has ever read your blog? I've heard a lot of claims that she works along-side the writers to keep Bones as "scientifically accurate" as possible, and I wonder what she would have to say about your comments. As Bones fan and and anthro student, I love reading it! Thankyou :)
Anonymous said…
Dang! Kathy*

My bad
I do not know if Reichs has ever heard of me, much less my blog. It was my impression that the show has one or more forensic consultants to help with the science. But I learned from reading the House, MD critiques that a doctor wrote that, even though they consult specialists, they don't always listen to them. Sometimes plot or timing are more important than getting the science/medicine right. So the same sort of thing may be happening with Bones.
Unknown said…
Did anyone notice that they did all the skeletal analysis BEFORE defleshing the skull?

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